Texas is widely known for having some of the toughest laws in the country.
With its close proximity to Central & South American drug trafficking routes, combined with its long streak of Conservative politicians it sits in a hostile position politically and geographically.
The state sees drugs being smuggled up from Mexico as a huge problem, and Texas politicians have historically taken a tough stance on crime, but has the war on drugs really worked? Not really, but that’s a discussion for another day.
Texas is an interesting state when it comes to cannabis investors for a number of reasons, maybe most important is its sheer size and population which currently sits at 28.3 million, second only to California.
Texas also has around 4 million more inhabitants than the country of Australia to put that into context.
A Breakdown of Texas Cannabis Laws
According to Canna Law Blog, Texas treats possession or sale of a small amount of marijuana as a misdemeanour.
Possession of less than 2 ounces warrants a fine of up to $2,000 and 180 days in jail. A person can earn those same penalties for gifting less than 7 grams of marijuana. If a person possesses between 2-4 ounces or is caught selling less than 7 grams, the penalties increase to up to a $4,000 fine and up to a year in jail.
A person can be charged with a felony for possession of any amount over 4 ounces or for selling or delivering marijuana in an amount greater than 7 grams. The following charges warrant a $10,000 fine plus potential jail time:
- Possession of 4 ounces to 5 pounds or sale of 7 grams to 5 pounds earns a sentence between 180 days and 2 years
- Possession or sale of 5-50 pounds earns a sentence between 2-10 years
- Possession or sale of 50-2,000 pounds earns a sentence between 2-20 years
- Possession of over 2,000 pounds earns a sentence between 5 years and life in prison, plus the fine increases to up to $50,000
- Sale of over 2,000 pounds earns a sentence between 10 years and life in prison, plus the fine increases to up to $100,000.
NORML reported (based on data from the FBI) that in 2012 72,562 people were arrested in Texas for marijuana with 97 percent of all marijuana convictions for possession. The most frightening stat produced by NORML is 180 days – 2 years for possession of 1 gram of concentrate.
The Times They Are A-Changin’
Jake Syma, with Hub City NORML, said “the legislature passing one of these 11 bills is not far fetched.”
The Texas Legislature only meets for its regular session every two years, which limits opportunities to improve marijuana laws. The 2019 session starts on January 8, and advocates and allied lawmakers are gearing up to push for more humane, fiscally sound marijuana laws.
The Lone Star State is increasingly an outlier with its outdated marijuana laws. Since its legislature last met in 2017, voters in Utah, Oklahoma, and Missouri enacted medical cannabis laws, as did lawmakers in West Virginia.
Meanwhile, Michigan’s voters recently legalized and regulated marijuana for adults’ use on Election Day 2018. Yet, Texas continues to penalize simple possession of marijuana with up to 180 days in jail. Encouragingly, Gov. Abbott recently signalled his openness to reducing penalties to a fine.
With more conservative states such as Oklahoma, Arkansas, Utah, and North Dakota taking steps to legalize cannabis, Texas feels increasingly like an outlier. Though some lawmakers have been showing signs that they’re ready to move forward on the issue, the state faces unique challenges that could continue to hold it back.
In the recent 2018 midterm election Republican Pete Sessions of Texas, the chairman of the House Rules Committee who’s been blocking votes on cannabis amendments, lost to Democratic challenger Colin Allred. Jeff Sessions who has been one of the biggest obstacles is also out.
Bob Dylan said it best:
“Come senators, congressmen
Please heed the call
Don’t stand in the doorway
Don’t block up the hall
For he that gets hurt
Will be he who has stalled
There’s a battle outside
And it is ragin’.
It’ll soon shake your windows
And rattle your walls
For the times they are a-changin”.
To read more about recent medical cannabis laws changing in the US check out this piece: